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The Weekend Quiz – December 10-11, 2022

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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    The monetary institutions are the same – but culture dictates the choices we make

    In discussions about the significant differences that we have observed over the last 30 odd years between the conduct of economic policy in Japan and elsewhere, the usual response from mainstream economists, when challenged to explain the outcomes in the former nation, is that it is ‘cultural’ and cannot be applied elsewhere. I always found that rather compromising because mainstream economics attempts to be a one-size-fits-all approach based on universal principles of maximising human behaviour. So, by admitting ‘cultural’ aspects to the discussion, this is tantamount to admitting that the ‘market-based’ micro founded approach to macroeconomics is incapable of explaining situations. That is the first black mark against the veracity of mainstream theory. But when one prods further, it becomes clear that the term ‘culture’ is fairly vacuous and blurred in this defense of the mainstream framework. I respond by pointing out that essentially the monetary system dynamics in Japan are identical to the way the system works elsewhere. The institutions might have subtle variations but essentially the operations are so similar that the ‘culture’ bailout doesn’t help resurrect the appalling lack of predictive accuracy when it comes to examining the macroeconomics of Japan. Cultural aspects, however, are crucial to understanding the differences. The trick is understanding how these monetary and fiscal institutions are managed. This is where the cultural aspects impact. And, while I have learned a lot about Japanese cultural nuances, some of the more important ‘cultural’ drivers are transportable to any nation – if only we cared enough and valued people in the same way.

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      Australia National Accounts – growth continues at a moderating pace

      The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, September 2022 – today (December 7, 2022), which shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the September-quarter 2022 and by 5.9 per cent over the 12 months to the end of September 2022. Growth is being driven largely by continued growth in household spending (which has not yet succumbed to the cost of living squeeze exacerbated by the interest rate rises). There was a modest contribution from private capital formation. The terms of trade declined sharply signalling a negative contribution from net exports and declining real net national living standards. There was growth in employee compensation (the wage measure from the national accounts) of 3.2 per cent but that was largely due to administrative decisions (for example, minimum wage increases) that impacted in this quarter rather than being the result of market pressures.

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        I am no longer writing a blog post on Tuesdays

        Now I am back in Australia for a while, I am using this time to continue my studies in the Japanese language to better prepare myself for when I return there to work in 2023. I have to learn 2056 Kanji characters for a start. So unless there is some major issue that has to be dealt with on a Tuesday, my blog will be silent on Tuesdays from now on.

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          US labour market is a sort of holding pattern – declining but slowly

          Last Friday (December 2, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – November 2022 – which suggested that the US labour market showed signs of slowing further, with payroll employment growing by just 263,000 net jobs. The labour force measure showed employment and labour force growth turning negative as the participation edged down. The result was that the official unemployment rate remained largely unchanged – with both the demand and supply side falling in proportion. The quit rate is stable which suggests that the US labour market is in a sort of holding pattern – slowing weakening but not consistent with the Federal Reserve type narratives. There are also no fundamental wage pressures emerging at present to drive any further inflation spikes. Wages growth appears to be reactive to inflation rather than propelling it. Wages growth appears to be reactive to inflation rather than propelling it. The claim that wage pressures are now pushing inflation is untenable given the data.

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            The Weekend Quiz – December 3-4, 2022 – answers and discussion

            Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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              The Weekend Quiz – December 3-4, 2022

              Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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                The transitory inflation conjecture gains even more data credence

                Yesterday (November 30, 2022), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Monthly Consumer Price Index Indicator – which is a new data series that the ABS has introduced to augment the quarterly CPI index release. Regular readers will know that I have considered this period of inflation to be transitory, which means that it is likely to dissipate rather quickly once the driving factors abate. It doesn’t mean that those driving factors are necessarily short-term in horizon. They might persist. But the important point is that second-round propagating mechanisms such as the wage-price distributional battle over markups are not present as they were in the 1970s, which is why that episode had a life of its own once the initial oil price supply shock adjustment was made. The other significant aspect of my assessment is that this current inflationary period does not indicate excessive fiscal support nor does it justify central banks hiking interest rates. The drivers at present are originating from the supply-side (pandemic, long Covid, OPEC+ and the Ukraine situation) and are not sensitive to any degree to interest rate changes. I have received a lot of criticism for holding this view. The Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is dead crowd constantly E-mail me or try to push acrid comments on this blog telling me to get another life or end my existing one. The problem for them is that the latest data from around the world is telling me that this period of inflation is peaking as the supply drivers start to wane.

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                  RBA governor apologises for duping Australians – but then says we didn’t read the literature closely enough

                  It’s Wednesday and I am reverting to my usual pattern of discussing a few items in less detailed form and including some music to lighten the load. Today we consider the apology that the RBA governor issued to mortgage holders that the central bank duped. We also consider the question of what is ‘normal’ in a pandemic. And more.

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                    Kyoto Report No 8

                    This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. I know I said last week’s Report would be the last but I have a couple of more observations in the days that followed. So here we are again for the last report for this year. I will continue the series when I return to Kyoto in 2023.

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